Last year’s Easter eggs hunt

The little ones and their Easter eggs find

Time flies, it’s almost Easter time again! Where did the year go? Memories of last year’s Easter egg hunt are still fresh in my thoughts but it is time for the next egg hunt again. To my daughter, life is moving forward and wanting the years to roll by so quickly while I am hanging on to every bit of her childhood — carefree days under the sun hunting for Easter eggs, blowing dandelion seeds away, climbing trees, going back and forth at the slide, running around with the other kids and many more.

One of my little girl’s favorite time of the year is Easter and the delightful event of Easter egg hunt. It is something that has become a tradition with us having started this on the first Easter when she could walk. At that time, the eggs were hidden in the confines of our small back garden.

Last year, we organized the Easter egg hunt with the involvement of children in our neighborhood. We were blessed with the perfect Easter weather — warm and sunny and the kids really had so much fun searching for the eggs hidden in the grass and other not so obvious places. I baked cupcakes while the other moms brought in the refreshments.

One more week to go and it will be the same frenzied activity again. My daughter can hardly wait…

On to the egg hunt

Searching the grass and weeds for the hidden eggs

Feeling fulfilled with every find

Happy with every sighting of an egg hidden in the grass

Weather couldn't be any better than this for the egg hunt

Maybe there are more eggs here...

Counting the egg finds

"Could we eat first?"

Carrot cupcakes with cream cheese frosting

Vanilla and chocolate cupcakes

Eating time after the hard work

More egg search

The parents minus me the photographer

Posing for mom

Childhood friendship

Flowers everywhere

Flowers everywhere

One afternoon at the children’s animal farm

This goat found her smelling nicely ;-)

My husband and I try our best to raise our little girl with awareness and respect for the natural world. On weekends, we can be found taking strolls in the forest or some park.

Three Sundays ago, we went for an afternoon visit to the city’s animal farm for kids which is actually run by volunteers. It is a very simple farm with goats, sheeps, peacocks, rabbits, chicken, calf, horses, etc. The nice thing is that children can come up close and pet these animals. The other time that we were at this farm was 3 years ago, also in early spring. At that time, Francesca enjoyed picking up the goat’s poop balls. She knew better this time and just had a great time chasing the small goats and trying to lift them up. At some point, she managed to have one of them to stay by her. They forged a lovely and friendly bond.

It was a cloudy afternoon till the sun started to break through the clouds

The sun breaking through the clouds

Showing how to approach a little goat


Be sweet not naughty ;-)


Showing the little girl how to treat a little goat - gentle is the word.

Running after a little goat

our family

Goats

Guinea fowls

Sheeps

Proud to share her story on how she befriended this little goat

Chasing the goats

Meeting a rabbit

We are friends

Sheep

Peacock

Playground inside the animal farm

"Wip kip" is how this stationary ride is called

Goat

With the Guinea fowls

Together we will explore the world ;-)

Yet another castle on one fine spring day

Rosendael Castle

There are times in life when our plans take a different turn and yield surprises beyond our expectations. A few weeks ago, we went to the Veluwe intent on exploring Biljoen Castle but that turned out to be off-limits to the public. Instead, we discovered a nature reserve nearby and was pleasantly surprised by the sheer beauty of the landscape and can hardly wait to be back when the season of heather goes full swing.

On the way back home, we took a different route and discovered a very nice hilly hairpin road which is pretty unusual in this very flat country whose great part is even below sea level. That drive led us to discover yet another hidden beauty in the Veluwe forest — the lovely Medieval Rosendael Castle. Being the castle freak that I am, I was right away captivated by the lovely sight in front of me. Too bad that it was already getting late and the little girl after all the playing in the nature reserve fell asleep in the car. I just went by myself to take a few pictures, intent to come back another time. The castle was anyway closed till end-March so I did not feel so bad that I have missed on a lovely visit. All the more reason to return…

I was charmed too by the crocuses in full bloom and the busy bees.

A lion statue at the castle's entrance

Rosendael Castle in the distance

Rosendael Castle

View of the village houses from the castle's park

Rosendael Castle

One of the buildings in the castle's grounds

Rosendael Castle

A thatched house that is pretty common in the area

Yet another thatched house

A white crocus and its visitor

Busy bees

Dainty white crocuses

Purple crocus and its visitor

Saw this horse-drawn carriage just as we were leaving...

Fun at a nature reserve area

Posbank

This post is a continuation of an earlier post on “One unreachable castle on fine fine day”. I wrote about how Biljoen Castle was off-limits to visitors but that we found a wonderful alternative in the lovely nature reserve and another castle within the area.

A short distance from Biljoen Castle is Posbank, a nature reserve area in the vicinity of the Veluwe. Considering that most of Holland is flat, this place is pretty special with its hilly landscape and the highest point at 90 meters above sea level is already mountainous by Dutch standard. ;-)

The hills are covered by heather which are brown and dry for now but must be spectacular in summer when they are in full bloom.

The place was perfect for our little girl whose imagination was boundless as to what games to play in such an environment.

Our family

Brown and dry heather

A bumble bee checking out the little girl ;-)

This caterpillar gave me the creeps ...

A lone tree among the heather

Relaxing...

Father and daughter

Posbank landscape

Trying the coffee

Me and my little girl

Among the heather

Checking out a rabbit hole

Spring creatures (mid-April 2010)

Lady bug

I simply love spring and the best time to be here in the Netherlands is in April when the temperature has sufficiently warmed up to make flowers burst and bloom in profusion and for spring creatures to wake up from their deep slumber and join the bright new world again.

On these days, I can be found wandering around with my camera, lost in the beauty and wonder of the natural world. Here are the images I took almost 2 years ago just in our neighborhood. I’m looking forward to the coming weeks when the trees and shrubs will blossom again and I can take my fill of the beauty around me.

Bathing in pollen

Dragonfly

Bumble bee

Lady bug

Pas de deux

Lady bug

Lady bug

Spring blooms against the blue sky

Fly

One unreachable castle on one fine day

Kasteel Biljoen

Being a big castle freak, I always plan our usual Sunday stroll to be in some castle grounds. We’re lucky to have several castles and palaces nearby but I also want to discover new ones. Two Sundays ago, the weather was so nice that it was a perfect time to go about castle hunting. I checked on the Dutch castles website and saw one which looked pretty in picture and so off we were to the town of Velp to check on Biljoen Castle (Kasteel Biljoen).

Unfortunately, the castle is off-limits to visitors as its previous owner, a baron who died in 2006 has willed that the castle will not be turned into a museum or open to the public. Instead, it will be kept as a private residence by anyone who acquires the castle. Disappointed at first, we found other ways to enjoy the day by going around the castle grounds and at some point, my husband and daughter devised a game of throwing stones to circular targets that they have drawn on the ground. My little girl just loved being out, being able to play with twigs and pretend fishing. I enjoyed savoring the early signs of spring…from the lone crocus coming out of the ground, to the cheerful pigeon up the tree, to the blue sky that reminded me that there will be more days like this.

Life can be fun even when our best laid plans do not work out as we want them to be. Beyond this castle, we discovered a lovely nature reserve area nearby and another castle… Will tell you more in my next posts.

Ducks swimming in the moat

The mound is the ice cellar which in olden times was used to store the ice blocks gathered in winter to chill food in summer

The moat

Buttered fish with coriander, nuts and spring onions

Buttered fish with coriander, nuts and spring onions served with steamed rice and a slice of lemon

The Dutch are quite freaky with food. Fish, meat and poultry should as much as possible be hardly recognizable from their original state — no heads, tails, bones and fins. To Filipinos (Pinoys) like me who grew up savoring fish with skin, head, tails and all, I find it not so nice to eat the almost white mass that is fish fillet after removing all the parts where all the flavors come from. Here in Holland, fish at supermarkets will be in fillet form and that’s a given. When I really want to eat fish in Pinoy fashion, I go to the open market but have to ask the fish vendor that cleaning the fish for me is just removing the scales and gills but the head and skin have to remain intact.

Anyway, let me share here with you a fish recipe using the flavorless fillet. This one’s a winner as the amazing flavors from coriander, spring onions, butter and nuts sensationally come out and redeem the lost value of any fish fillet.

On this dish, you will need the following:

Fish fillet
Salt and pepper
Coriander leaves
Spring onions
Nuts (hazelnuts or peanuts)
Butter

This dish tastes sensational and all you need is steamed rice and a slice of lemon to squeeze over the fish.

I normally get the frozen fish fillet from the grocery. I let that thaw at room temperature but when I am in a hurry such as in this instance, I just let the microwave speed up the job for me. Next to that, I season the fillet on both sides with salt and pepper.

Fish fillet seasoned with salt and pepper

Thinly sliced spring onions, ground peanuts and finely chopped coriander

Let butter softened at room temperature, add all the ingredients (coriander, nuts, spring onions) and make a paste and then coat the fish fillet on both sides.

The paste of butter, herbs and nuts spread on the fish fillet

Place the coated fish in an oven-proof dish and baked at 220 degrees Celsius for 20 minutes or until the fish is cooked and the top is brown. Another option if you have a combi oven/magnetron is to use the grill.

Straight out from the oven oozing with that glorious smell

Spring blooms

Apologies for posting so many spring pictures but I’m just so happy that spring is finally here. I love this season of the year because it just feels like being reborn into a new life that is full of new promises and possibilities. There is beauty all around us too…from blossoming trees to those spring flowers blooming in profusion.

There are so many things to look forward to like those weekend outings to the park, castles or palaces we have around. Warm weather means having barbeques in the garden or picnics in the park or forest nearby. Then there are camping trips that we intend doing more as well this year…

More on Keukenhof and its surprises (April 2011)

Francesca and the little lamb

Beyond the bewitching spring blooms, we were surprised to stumble upon the little animal farm inside Keukenhof to entertain the kids. There were turkeys, pigs, sheeps, lambs, a calf and some rabbits. Though a bit hesitant at first, Francesca enjoyed petting the lambs and the little calf.

Here are more pictures from Keukenhof. There was just so much beauty that I can’t resist taking so many pictures. ;-)

Chasing birds

Daffodils

With a Japanese lady in traditional costume

Enjoying a lolly by the fountain

Reds and yellows

Father and daughter admiring the fountains

Holland’s spring garden in April 2011

Keukenhof

Categorically saying that Holland (or The Netherlands) is Europe’s spring capital should not raise an eyebrow (I hope). I say this because all roads lead to this small country the moment the daffodils spring from the ground, followed by the hyacinths and lastly by the muse of the spring blooms — the tulips.

One park that attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors in the two months that its doors are open to the public is Keukenhof in the town of Lisse. It is considered the most beautiful spring garden in the world with its total area of 32 hectares planted with 7 million bulbs of which 4.5 million are tulips of 100 varieties. I make it a point to not miss a visit every single year.

Keukenhof opens its doors timed around the official start of spring (3rd week of March) but I prefer going a month after as more flowers especially the tulips are by then mostly in bloom. The amazing thing about Keukenhof is how these flowers are organized that they bloom in perfect symphony in the two months of spring. One can’t help but be impressed by the plant knowledge of the gardeners here who painstakingly plant the bulbs in autumn by hand.

Keukenhof chooses a theme each year for its flower exhibit. In 2011, the theme was “Germany, Land of Poets and Philosophers”. A German theme route went from one entrance to the other and the highlight was the flower mosaic of the Brandenburger Gate in Berlin.

We did not get to see the entire park during our visit for there was just too much to see and we also had to find the balance between what is interesting to us and to our little girl. She simply enjoyed running around and smelling the flowers.

Neither did we have time to see the flower exhibits at the various pavilions (the Willem Alexander Pavilion had over 80,000 tulips on display in more than 600 varieties and 120 varieties of daffodils; the Beatrix Pavilion showed orchids, bromeliad and anthuriums; and the Juliana Pavilion had a special theme exhibition of the Dutch-German ties that bind both countries). Anyway,

Useful information:
To flower enthusiasts and shutterbugs, Keukenhof is the place to be. Come early because the park gets very busy around lunch time when busloads of tourists from all over the world find their way here. The park and parking tickets can be bought online which we normally do to avoid queueing for a long time. Other things to do include sailing in a silent boat between the flower bulb fields behind Keukenhof. It is also possible to cycle in between the flower bulb fields in the surroundings of Keukenhof.

Another event worth witnessing is the annual Flower Parade which will take place on 21 April 2012.

Spring blooms and morning dews (April 2010)

There is nothing that I love more on an early spring morning than the lovely sight of spring blooms laden with morning dews. The sight of flowers glistening from those morning dews that seem like countless diamonds is simply breathtaking. I feel like the world has been renewed, refreshed and reinvigorated. I cannot help but look up in the sky and thank the One above for this wonderful day.

Sunday stroll at Renswoude Castle Park (March 2011)

Renswoude Castle

There’s nothing more exciting than to have that confirmation that spring has arrived. The moment the crocuses come out of the ground and burst profusely like nature’s floral carpet, there’s nothing more enjoyable than to be out for our usual Sunday stroll.

One year ago, we were blessed with a lovely Sunday weather of bright sun and blue skies. I always like a good walk but I make sure that we go to a place with lots of atmosphere as well. This time, I found a very nice castle not so far from our place (about 25 minutes drive). Renswoude Castle was built in 1654 in the classic Dutch style. In 1708, the castle park was changed into geometric French baroque style with straight lanes, grand canal and a star forest. Between 1816 and 1818, the park has been modernized in the English landscape style where many straight elements were altered with undulating and curved lines.

This castle which was named after the town itself is privately owned but its park is open to the public. We enjoyed the stroll, Francesca loved the sheer space and the freedom to run around. The park is planted with centuries-old trees through which the sun rays shone through its bare branches. The onset of spring was already evident from the patches of crocuses in full bloom. In a month or two, the rhododendrons there will be bursting in profusion too.

The little girl at Renswoude Castle

Renswoude Castle

My family

Crocuses

Father and daughter

Spring bloom

Renswoude Castle

My family

Father and daughter

Chasing game

Father and daughter

Renswoude Castle

Me and my little girl

The castle from across the grand canal

My little girl

Swans at the grand canal

Posing for picture

Me and my little girl

Fun among the trees

The little girl and the tree

Hide-and-seek game

A duck in the grand canal

Father and daughter hiding from me

The castle

The sun through the trees

Chasing game

The beauty of rain

Geraniums in the rain

We can plan our lives in careful details, at times down to every bend and turn. We want that perfect holiday with sunshine and blue sky but what if we get the exact opposite?

On a holiday to Austria way back in early June 2009, that was exactly what happened to us. Instead of the beautiful alps where Maria from the Sound of Music is singing “Doe a deer” with the Von Trapp children, we arrived to a gloomy Salzburg and the mountains were hardly visible from the mist. The weather forecast was very discouraging too, cold and wet in the many days to come.

Instead of staying in our tent as we have booked an already assembled tent and we just needed to step in, we had to stay in the camp apartment for a week in our 2-week holiday because of the sheer cold and dampness inside the tent. Going around was in most cases, dampened by the not so cooperative summer weather of rain and more rain.

This holiday…not turning out the way I envisioned actually gave me an altogether different perspective. I learned to appreciate the rain and its nurturing role in the environment. I learned to appreciate that in life, our plans may not always work out the way we wanted but we can always make the most out of it.

An inspiration for jewellers

A rain-soaked daisy

A moth caught in the rain

Edelweiss

Rain-soaked flowers

Butterfly

Edelweiss

Looking at ordinary things in extraordinary ways – Nature shots from late summer 2010

Ladybug

For not knowing any better then, there were moments in my childhood which I look back now with sadness. Those moments when I did not give Mother Nature the reverence and respect she truly deserves. As a child growing up in the countryside in Philippines, I was one of the kids who went around with slingshots aiming for birds and insects. We would collect the sap from the jackfruit tree to turn it into a sort of glue when we hunt for crickets in the trees. We would play with those crickets and they would end up on sticks pretending they were barbeques when we play pretend store or restaurant. I’m glad that I would be separated from those kids in the neighborhood when I went to a different school in another town when I was nine. I learned that there was more to childhood fun than being mean to creatures especially the small and helpless ones from human cruelty.

As a grown up and having learned more about nature, I just wish that I could undo the damage I caused way back then by educating the little ones now about reverence for anything that the good Lord has given us. The environmental degradation that we see nowadays is caused by ignorance, greed and in many instances, also by sheer indifference. The education about appreciation for nature should start from childhood because that is the time when values are being formed. The kids who hunted those birds if not led to the right path, will go into big-time poaching in later life. The ignorant ones will be easy prey to the greedy ones who will take possession on the bounties of nature that they are endowed with. And the indifferent ones, if they are not affected, will simply let the whole environmental abuse go on.

Teaching a child the appreciation of nature is shown by example. With my daughter, we would go out looking for insects to observe them in their natural world. These days, we would bring old bread to feed the birds rather than the slingshots of my childhood. As parents, it is our primordial task to instill in our kids that being stewards of nature for the generations to come is their responsibility.

Armed with my camera, I now look at these seemingly ordinary things…insects, flies, butterflies, spiders, flowers, weeds in extraordinary ways. These pictures were taken one late morning in our neighborhood late in the summer of 2010.

Red poppies among yellow blooms

Butterfly

Dandelion

Butterfly

Fly

Poppies after flowering

Spider in its web

Clover flowers

Little lake beside our home

Lotus flowers in the lake

Ladybug

Early spring

The 1st of March is already considered here as the start of spring in meteorological terms although the real start of the season as we know will only be 3 more weeks farther. My daughter can hardly wait for the new season to begin as she looks forward to picking flowers and assemble them into lovely bouquets.

I share my little girl’s fascination with this season as I simply love how Holland blossoms after a long hibernation in winter. I love the sight of early morning just when the sun is breaking though the mist as backdrop to the trees and shrubs which explode in blooms just as soon as the temperature warms up sustainably for a couple of days.

With the exception of when there is snow or ice, my camera also goes into winter hibernation mode so when the first signs of spring become visible, I am out of the door in an instant to go around and start clicking to capture the beauty of the season.

These are pictures I took last year and I am looking forward to a repeat of this lovely phase in the season this year.

Lady bug

Dandelion

Snail

Lady bug

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